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On Thursday, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev presented to the State Duma a bill, which offers a new procedure for elections of deputies to the lower house of parliament. Any party will be able to participate in parliamentary elections, without being obliged to collect signatures of citizens in its support. At the same time, every candidate should be referred to a certain territory of the country, which will make the number of 225. Those are the concept provisions of the new version of the law on election of the State Duma deputies. The opposition is sure that “reproduction of territory units,” like other innovations, is in the first place to the benefit of United Russia.
Territory units are formed on the basis of a norm of representation of the electorate, Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. The norm is calculated by dividing active voters by 225. Presently it makes about 484,000 people. If the law is adopted without changing the norm, within the next four years /the procedure is to be completed a year before the elections/ the Central Elections Commission will have to ‘cut’ territory units depending on the number of voters and later on will have to update the ‘divide’ every ten years. The mechanism of dividing is explained in the law in full detail – the number of citizens in a territory is divided by a norm of representation, and the unsigned makes the number of territory units.
Presently, deputies are being elected against the proportional principle, i.e. only from the parties, which raffle out all 450 seats proportionally to the share of votes collected during the election, Kommersant reports.
Judging by the text of the presented bill, the president fully kept the present proportional system, having changed only regulations for formation of a list of party candidates. They will no longer have a federal part, which during election campaigns acts like a party’s shop window, and thus parties include there party leaders and prominent figures. Now the parties will be deprived of the ‘shop windows.’ This would be to the benefit of exactly a party, which would be able to divide its list in 225 groups, referring them to every one of the ‘225 territory units’, which the country would be divided into. Parties will have to divide a list of candidates into 225 parts, nominating four deputies in every part. The list may contain fewer parts, but the main thing is that the list of candidates contains no fewer than a hundred names.
The very “225 territory units” have become the concept novelty of the bill, the newspaper writes. It was done to provide representation at the State Duma of the country’s all possible territories, as well as to improve “the ties of parties and deputies with electors living in the territories,” Head of the State Duma’s constitution legislation committee Vladimir Pligin /United Russia/ said on Thursday. Now “the parties set themselves limits of a territory where their candidates on regional lists will be working,” Chairman of A Just Russia and deputy chairman of the State Duma Nikolai Levichev explained. Now the borders of the “225 territory units” will be set by the Central Elections Commission, and parties will not have a right to merge two or several “units” in order to nominate there one regional group of voters. Only a big party, which has a major staff, financial and other resources, is capable of nominating popular candidates at all “225 units.”
But in Russia’s reality, the most important is the “administrative resource.” Thus, “the reproduction of the territory units to 225, elimination of the federal part of the list are first of all to the benefit of the United Russia,” the newspaper quotes as saying First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, Deputy chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Ivan Melnikov.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that theoretically party votes should remain. But this is only theory. But what will happen in reality – here, United Russia nominates its candidates, and they are highly respected persons, while say A Just Russia does not? And Communists nominate only some local player, and that’s it? At the same time, it is clear that so-called leaders of the public opinion mostly will be represented on the list of the party of power. While small parties, which will emerge due to Medvedev’s other law, do not have any chances at all to compete with the parliamentary ones. Because they will be able to nominate candidates only in some territory units.
Besides these innovations, the bill regulates abolishment of the requirement to collect signatures and also a lower required minimum of votes to five percent, the Novye Izvestia writes. It is for the first time that a law regulates participation of the Internet media in election agitation. The requirements for them are like those for non-governmental media. The bill fixes the right of observers to use photo and video cameras at election stations. It regulates the Internet video broadcast of voting and counting of the votes.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets writes about other simplified procedures. Non-parliamentary parties will not have to collect signatures for registration. A candidate has a right to establish a private fund /up to six million/. Parties will be able to file lists on-line on the site of the Central Elections Commission, and candidates will be able to file online applications confirming their consent to stand for election.